Dar es Salaam. Senior officials of the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) are infuriated following remarks by the party’s former secretary-general Bashiru Ally who recently urged farmers across the country to force those entrusted with the country’s leadership to be on their side.
Dr Ally was speaking during a gathering organised by the Network of Smallholder Farmers’ Groups in Tanzania (MVIWATA) in Morogoro, on November 17, 2022, to discuss the fate of smallholders in the country within the context of the free market ideology.
“My hope is that your solidarity will send a clear message to those in positions of power,” Dr Ally, now serving as an appointed Member of Parliament, told smallholders. “Your statements and positions should intimidate them to take your side.”
The former University of Dar es Salaam lecturer warned farmers against the danger of joining the chorus aimed at heaping praises on President Samia Suluhu Hassan, noting that doing so would be equivalent to killing MVIWATA as a representative of farmers’ voices.
“MVIWATA is not an organ whose function is to praise and thank [those in power],” Dr Ally, who briefly served as the Chief Secretary of Tanzania, pointed out during his speech. “It is an organ to demand justice.”
However, the advice has not been well received by Dr Ally’s fellow senior cadres within CCM, Africa’s second-largest party, who have interpreted his remarks as pitting Tanzanians against their government.
Kenani Kihongosi, the secretary of the party’s youth wing UVCCM, for example, described Dr Ally’s remarks as “unfriendly [and] unwise.” He distanced the party from the statements, calling them “empty lies.”
Mr Kihongosi said that it was not true that the CCM-led government is not on the side of farmers, pointing to measures like subsidies on fertilizers as proof of the Samia Administration’s commitments to supporting farmers in the country.
“Now, when a leader who has held big positions rises up to say that leaders do not deserve praises and that they must be pressured so that they can deliver to the people, that is not right,” Mr Kihongosi told a press conference on November 19, 2022.
He has been joined by a number of former and serving CCM MPs who have criticised Dr Ally’s remarks, with Geita Rural MP Joseph Musukuma going as far as accusing him of “insulting President Samia.”
“Why should it be wrong if people want to praise their president?” Mr Msukuma questioned.
“I’m calling on Bashiru [Ally], and those who are behind him, to come forward and apologize,” he demanded. “President Samia works very hard and she deserves all the praises in the world.”
Nzega Rural MP (CCM) Dr Hamisi Kigwangalla called Dr Ally’s statement “seditious,” which he made “very carelessly.” The former cabinet minister said in an interview that the statement might cause “tension” within a large group of people in Tanzania.
He mentioned the increase in the budget for agriculture as one of the “many reasons” why Tanzanians should praise President Samia.
The 2022/2023 budget for agriculture increased to Sh751 billion up, from Sh290 billion in 2021/22, an equivalent to a nearly 158 per cent rise.
“This is a huge increase, a testament to President Samia’s efforts to revolutionize the agricultural sector in the country,” Dr Kigwangalla said during the interview. “[Dr Ally] was supposed to give smallholders hope, not take one from them. He was supposed to have this information and share it with them.”
The speech that rattled CCM members and leaders. pic.twitter.com/7AwSrQACjG
— The Chanzo (@TheChanzo) November 21, 2022
In his address to the smallholders, Bashiru Ally, who is also an ambassador, expressed his frustration at what he saw as farmers’ inability across the country to confront land grabbers, people he alleged receive backing from those in power.
A number of smallholders who were present at the conference confessed to The Chanzo to having lost their land to local governments and powerful people, many of them described by local authorities as investors.
This includes Ekilia Milimo, a smallholder from Manyara, who lost her six-hectre land which she has been cultivating for six years after the village government acquired it without paying proper compensation.
She was one of many smallholders with sad stories of having their land grabbed, accusing the government of failing to stand on their side when they bring up their cases to relevant authorities.
“Your voice [as smallholders] should intimidate these land grabbers; as things stand, we have not reached that stage now,” Dr Ally observed.
“And unless we reach that stage, our land will continue to be at risk of being grabbed. That is the goal we should set for ourselves,” he suggested.